iFarmer's Sofol app connects various parts of the company's operation on a strong data and monitoring infrastructure.
Aiming to democratize the agricultural financing and supply chain of Bangladesh, iFarmer is working to empower local farmers by connecting farm buyers and farmers on their platform.
iFarmer works to simplify the process of selling food and grains and helping farmers get the most for their produce.
They do this by eliminating the middlemen because farmers don’t receive an adequate percentage of the selling price.
The agriculture supply chain, which is packed with middlemen and the lack of knowledge in the trade, makes access to the market expensive for farmers which compromises their profit margin.
Consumers too, therefore, have to settle for low quality and volatile priced agri-produce.
Almost 70% of farmers don’t have access to formal financing, the options available to them either come with a high-interest rate or are not tailor-made for the agricultural industry.
The lack of capital is also connected to the quality of input that a farmer can utilize, as they can’t afford high-quality input, this compromises quality and productivity leading to low agricultural yield.
“iFarmer aims to take on this interconnected set of problems using a combination of technology and data, we are driven by the passion to improve the lives of the farmers and Agri MSMEs,” said one of the co-founders of the company, Fahad Ifaz.
“Our vision is to build Bangladesh's most efficient and largest agriculture finance and supply chain platform and improve the lives of the farmers, retailers, businesses and consumers in a meaningful way,” he added.
Ifaz has 10 years of experience working in South Asia and has worked in economics, financial inclusion and agricultural development for organizations such as the World Bank, CARE Australia, Spring Accelerator and more.
Another cofounder, Jamil M Akbar has more than eight years of experience in managing large scale and complex technology projects having worked with organizations such as Graphic People and Tiger IT.
The startup has also done a lot of work in awareness building and education over the past two years focusing on transparency with our farm buyers, providing them almost real-time information regarding their earnings and farm.
The farm buyers are put into contact with the farmers and can even visit the farms.
iFarmer provides a web and app interface for farm buyers where they can see the location, pictures, farm updates bi-weekly, and monthly depending on their portfolio.
“For the process to work, both the buyers and farmers need to trust that they will have good earnings from Ifarmer, to ensure the trust of the buyer the documentation process is rigorous and involves clear and transparent documentation of all transactions and dealings with Ifarmer,” said Jamil.
According to him, another important way they safeguard people’s earnings is through the fact that they can avail themselves of insurance options as well, iFarmer’s partnership with a well-reputed insurance company ensures this as of now more than 1500 clients have bought farms.
Supporting and financing farmers is a multifaceted dilemma that requires the navigation of multiple complexities.
This is where iFarmer’s “Sofol” app plays a pivotal role as the app was initially designed for farmers but due to their low technological adaptation it now works through an assisted model where field facilitators who work with the farmers use the app for numerous purposes ranging from on boarding farmers, collecting financing requirements of farmers, disburse inputs and all the way to follow-up on financing, share weather updates and advice, and other relevant issues.
The Sofol mobile app solves several challenges for iFarmer, it makes the entire management of farmers relationships much easier. Field agents can quickly onboard farmers and maintain constant communication where necessary.
Sofol is an important piece of iFarmer’s ecosystem strategy and connects various parts of iFarmer operation on a strong data and monitoring infrastructure.
Using the data from the app, iFarmer can develop a better understanding of farmers, farming cultivation cycles and crops, offer superior advice to farmers using iFarmer’s remote sensing capability to improve yield and profit. As well as connect Ifarmer’s b2b supply chain business, and better plan the supply chain and marketing.
The company is planning to create a marketplace within Sofol directly connecting farmers with others to sell and buy products, create robust credit scoring models, and eventually, bring in other financing partners such as financial institutions, provide better insight to retail farm buyers based on real-time farm data regarding their funded farms and much more.
The data can help identify farmers who are consistently successful in generating positive revenue for themselves, Ifarmer, and its retail farm buyers.
The performance of farmers over a certain period can be used for creating credit scores and help in making future financing decisions.
The founders believe using this model in the future; the startup can make scaling more straightforward and automate the entire process.
When asked about the kind of barriers they had to face, the founders faced the challenges to educate the people and make them aware of this earning opportunity as it is a new model that they introduced.
“The entire team of iFarmer strives to create a more equitable, efficient and modernized agricultural ecosystem, currently it has more than 42000 registered farmers in its network,” said Raisul Alam, manager, Business Development and Growth of the company.
By 2024, iFarmer aims to have 300,000 farmers in its platform that will get finance, inputs, and be able to sell products through the Ifarmer supply-chain platform.